By Paul Imig Special to Published Jul 27, 2015 at 3:16 PM

Wisconsin has become one of the country’s hot spots for professional golf. In matters of prestige and fan support, the state is establishing itself as a prime destination for the sport.

When the 2015 PGA Championship tees off on Aug. 13, Whistling Straits will enter exclusive company: It will become just the eighth course in the tournament’s 97 years to ever host three or more PGA Championships. Whistling Straits previously hosted the event in 2004 and 2010. 

"It’s one of the finest, most tested golf courses in the world," PGA Championship director Jason Mengel said Monday. "And it has room for all of the logistics that are required to run the tournament."

Whistling Straits joins the company of venues such as Valhalla Golf Club, Oakland Hills Country Club and Oak Hills Country Club that have hosted three PGA Championships.

Mengel attended the previous two PGA Championships held at Whistling Straits, but he was not in charge of them. With Mengel now assuming the top role, he’s seen how the reaction from statewide golf enthusiasts has grown over the past five years.

Even with the tournament still being a couple weeks away, the 2015 PGA Championship has already broken the all-time record for combined ticket sales and corporate hospitality revenue. The record that was broken was previously held by the 2004 PGA Championship, which was also played at Whistling Straits.

Mengel estimated that there will be approximately 200,000 people present over the Aug. 13-16 weekend, and 50 percent of the ticket sales have been from Wisconsin residents. In addition to that, there will be more than 100 Wisconsin-based companies being entertained on-site, as well as 3,400 volunteers working.

"A lot of it goes to this area and the passion they have for major championship golf," Mengel said.

If the attendance figures are broadened to include Chicago and view it from a regional perspective, 70 percent of sold tickets (in the range of 140,000 people) came from those living in the midwest – and within a two-hour drive time to Kohler.

At least one pair of tickets has been sold to someone residing in every state.

An event of this magnitude is certainly not thrown together overnight. There has been an on-site office in place since July 2013 in preparation for the PGA Championship’s third appearance at Whistling Straits.

"Really, planning has almost never stopped since 2010 (when the tournament was last here)," Mengel said.

That’s how long it takes to plan out the site, to market and sell tickets, and to recruit 3,000-plus volunteers. Bleachers need to be set up, a 36,000-square foot merchandise gift shop was erected, a main entrance was constructed and more than 1,000 media members were credentialed.

"It’s like if you were to host the Super Bowl at your high school field," Mengel said. "In this case, Whistling Straits is one of the best courses in the world."

Mengel won’t have much of an opportunity to watch the tournament once it begins.

"I’ll see the first ball that goes in the air Thursday morning and the final putts on Sunday," he said. "I’ll be busy putting out fires throughout the week, meeting with volunteers ... a lot is just handling numerous things that come up throughout the week.

"By Friday, the event is pretty much running itself. By late in the week, everyone is in their routine."

Even if Mengel isn’t on the course to see it firsthand, he knows who most fans will be cheering for. Jordan Spieth, who just turned 22 years old, will be going for his sixth tournament victory and his third major. Mengel also expects Dustin Johnson to have a great following, as well as Bubba Watson and Jim Furyk.

"Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson) will have huge galleries, too, and hopefully Rory (McIlroy) will recover (from his left ankle injury)," Mengel said.

Golf fans who want to be there to watch Spieth, Johnson and Woods in person can try to grab some of the few single-day tickets that are still available.

Paul Imig Special to
Paul Imig spent the past five years working for FOX Sports WI. He began by covering the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers before taking over the Green Bay Packers beat in 2011. In addition to his writing, Paul also made television appearances nationwide on FOX Sports 1. He can be heard on the radio statewide on The Bill Michaels Show and can be seen on Time Warner Cable's Roundtable show with Dennis Krause. Paul is the 2015 recipient of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's award for Graduate Of the Last Decade (GOLD).